How digital transformation opened a new customer segment for Kennards Hire

The tendency for any organisation is to see customers the way you see themselves, says chief commercial officer of hiring company


The need for change can be difficult to accept for any business, especially for one that has been operating successfully for almost 70 years. But by embracing the need for digital transformation, family-owned equipment hire company, Kennards Hire, has found a new customer segment while improving service to existing ones.

Kennards recently redeveloped its Web presence from a static site to a dynamic hiring portal based on Magento, and the commercial results are exceeding expectations, Kennards’ chief commercial officer, Theo Triantafillides, says. A key benefit has been to attract business from a younger demographic.

“People who had never used Kennards before are the primary ones making their reservations and booking online, because they are finding us through digital search,” Triantafillides says. “We have reached into that younger demographic through a new channel, and it has been an eye opener.”

This result has helped vindicate the investment in the new site, which faced initial scepticism as to whether there was an unmet demand to hire equipment digitally.

“The tendency for any organisation is to see customers the way you see yourself,” Triantafillides says. “If we believe customers behave and consume in a certain way, we won’t be open to uncovering other demographics actually interested in consuming a different way.

Kennards hire chief commercial officer, Theo Triantafillides
Kennards hire chief commercial officer, Theo Triantafillides

“It is not until you put yourself into that position that you discover them. That’s what we’ve done.”

Triantafillides joined Kennards in November 2015, having previously held roles in sales and marketing in the logistics sector with Australia Post and Qantas. When he joined the company, it had already made a decision to pursue a digital future, but delayed its implementation.

The decision to select Magento was driven by a desire to adopt a best-in-class ecommerce platform, and bringing new processes and ideas into a very traditional industry. Together with its development and hosting partner eWave, Kennards worked to integrate a catalogue of more than 10,000 items, while also taking into account the variables and economics of the hire industry.

“There are a lot of complicating factors from an ecommerce point of view,” Triantafillides says. “While no one single thing is unique to Kennards or to rental, the combination of things is unique.

“We needed a robust platform to be able to cope with that and manage it, and be scalable for that variation.”

Changing the staff mindset

Transforming the website has also meant transforming other aspects of the company. Staff at Kennards’ branches had to be trained to handle the many reservations that would now be coming in overnight, to ensure inventory lists reflected reality.

And while Kennards had traditionally run a telephone-based customer support service, the introduction of Web chat meant significant care and training had to be undertaken to enable staff to deliver a personalised service through the new chat medium.

“Part of the customer journey is digital, and part of it is physical now,” Triantafillides says. “So how do you make sure that is seamless, and the experience is consistent through that process? We were very aware of making sure that, as much as possible, we replicated our value proposition in delivering the new service.

“At all stages, operational staff were included on the working group and participated in user testing, from functional specification onwards, and then we had customer groups get involved as well.”

While the priority to date has been around business-to-consumer interactions, Triantafillides says the next area of work will be focused on Kennards’ larger customers. Kennards will also mobilise the system for its branches, allowing team members to serve a customer at their vehicle as they come on site to collect or drop off with the addition of sign-on-glass functionality.

Triantafillides says a significant factor in the success of the project and ongoing transformation has been the entrepreneurial spirit of Kennards, which is still alive and well almost 70 years after the company was founded.

“The entrepreneurial DNA in Kennards is what made it possible, and that has been the core of our success to this point,” Triantafillides says. “We’ve disrupted ourselves and our own traditional thinking, and to me that has been of great value and will continue to be, because it has opened up minds to being more progressive and thinking in different ways.”

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